As we all know, since 2008 things in the golf industry have changed. One area that has changed more than I would have thought is who decides what parts of the golf course are getting irrigated. Before, it was mostly a superintendent’s decision, but in many cases, now there is a formal committee or group of people who are weighing in on irrigation coverage. And this is not just a private club issue. Surprisingly, this trend is also occurring more and more in the public golf sector.

Which parts of a golf course get irrigated influences both directly and indirectly many different aspects of an irrigation design. From a designer’s standpoint, it is very important. Coverage limits need to be determined at the very beginning of the design process. Not all golf course irrigation systems are wall to wall. In fact, very few are, so irrigated areas must be carefully determined. Greens, tees and fairways are not under discussion. However, areas where decisions need to be made include various parts of the rough, bunkers, the area between the tees and fairway, how much green surround is watered, the practice range, and native areas. Usually fescues areas are not irrigated, but sometimes they may be irrigated in the event they’re converted to turf in the future.

It is important to be consistent – what is done on one hole should be done on all holes. You want the golf course to have a consistent irrigated look.”

Irrigation coverage obviously directly affects the number of sprinklers installed, which directly impacts water usage. Water use then affects the pump station size which influences the mainline pipe sizing. The number of sprinklers also affects the number of controllers or decoders and therefore wire size and communication routes and the number of interfaces. More importantly, the amount of coverage affects the costs. Once the number of sprinklers is determined, then the cost of an irrigation system installation and the required flow in gallons per minute of water can be accurately estimated. Because of the high price tag of today’s systems and their cost implications, there are more interested parties in what is getting covered than just the superintendent.

Who should make these coverage decisions other than the superintendent? Depending on the club/course, the pro and general manager may be involved, or both. At others, it will be the greens or golf committee, and sometimes the whole board. Lately it seems it is an “irrigation committee” consisting of members of the greens committee and several board members. Having board members on the irrigation committee involved in the process makes it much easier to sell the project to the board as they will know the answers to members or players’ questions and can explain the process undertaken to the rest of the board which gives it credibility.

When considering coverage, what do you or your “committee” want to take into consideration? I am a firm believer that you go for the most coverage you want first and then figure out if you have the water and budget to support a new or upgraded irrigation system. If not, then start cutting back. As a minimum you want to consider the basics: ins and outs on the greens, tees and fairway coverage — be it double row, triple row or wall to wall. You may want to consider ins and outs on the fairways, which has become very popular. Approach sprinklers and bunker irrigation are additional considerations. It is important to be consistent – what is done on one hole should be done on all holes. You want the golf course to have a consistent irrigated look. For example, if you water between the tee and fairway on one hole, you should do it on all of them unless there are differences in the planting, such as turf versus fescue or native. To help sell such a large project, you will also want to consider other important areas that might require irrigation such as tennis courts, the clubhouse grounds and the course/club entrance.

Involving other interested parties in the decision of what will and will not be irrigated on your course helps to both expedite getting a new irrigation system and justify the need and cost. By engaging others there are more proponents of the system, which can only help the irrigation project move forward.